The Mustang

Written and directed by French actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre in her directorial debut, The Mustang is a beautifully crafted drama with a powerful story of redemption and marked by terrific acting performances. The plot follows an inmate named Roman Coleman, played by the extremely talented Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who finds himself transferred to a rural Nevada prison and does not like to engage with the other prisoners and would rather be in isolation. He is a very quiet man who has obviously struggled in the past but wants to make up for his past violent crimes and reconnect with his estranged adult daughter. Eventually, after he is assigned to outdoor maintenance for a horse training program run by the inmates, he catches the eye of a grumpy elderly horse trainer named Myles, played by Oscar nominee Bruce Dern. Myles recruits Roman to become a member of the horse rehabilitation program that tries to break wild horses so that they can be sold off at auction. His humanity slowly begins to show as he develops a relationship with one of the mustangs who, like himself, is in need of redemption and rehab to rejoin the general population. Through the close connection to the horse who is also needing help, Roman breaks out of his shell and makes friends with a fellow inmate and horse trainer named Henry, played by Jason Mitchell, as well as having somewhat of a father figure in the civilian Myles. The film provides a sympathetic view of the redeeming qualities of having a meaningful job while incarcerated and provides insight into a rather unusual horse training program that most people have never heard of as being part of a prison system. All of the lead actors, especially Matthias Schoenaerts and Bruce Dern, bring a certain level of realism to their roles by giving intimate yet emotional depth to their characters who are based on real men. Overall, I found it to be one of the much more sympathetic depictions of what it must be like for prisoners who are trying to change their lives for the better, and the film is able to do this as a result of the outstanding directorial vision and acting performances.

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